After rallying to finish their West Coast trip above .500, the NL East-leading New York Mets return to Shea Stadium looking to take advantage of seven games against two of the worst teams in the league.
New York hopes John Maine can help the team carry some momentum from its successful trip when he takes the mound on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game set with the stumbling Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Mets (55-43) closed their seven-game West Coast trip with 4-3 record after rallying for a 5-4, 10-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. Chip Ambres drove in the go-ahead run with his first hit in almost two years.
“It’s an outstanding win on the road, a great gutsy win by the club,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “This is the kind of game that you might look back on at the end of the season and say this might have been a big turning point for us. We showed that ‘sticktuitiveness’ that we need to be a real good team. It’s going to be a nice flight home.”
The Mets now return to Shea, where they have won eight of their last 10 games, to face the Pirates (41-56) before starting a four-game series Friday with last-place Washington.
Maine (10-5, 3.07 ERA), the team leader in wins and strikeouts (101), will try to take advantage of the struggling Pirates. The right-hander, though, has lost both career starts versus Pittsburgh despite posting a 3.38 ERA and striking out 13 in 10 2-3 innings.
Maine has been shaky of late, going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA and allowing three home runs in two outings after winning four consecutive starts. He was tagged for four runs and seven hits—including two homers—in six innings Wednesday, but did not receive a decision in New York’s 5-4 defeat at San Diego.
The Pirates, who are tied for last in the NL in road victories at 18, will counter with Ian Snell (7-7, 3.31), another highly regarded young hurler.
Snell is hoping to avoid losing a season-high three starts in a row and help Pittsburgh win for only the second time in 10 contests.
The right-hander dropped his second consecutive start Wednesday when he surrendered five runs and five hits, including a pair of homers, in six innings of a 5-3 loss to Colorado. After the game, Snell accused the Rockies of stealing signs.
“I’ll just wait until next time and see if I pitch against them, if not, I’ll let the guy know it’s a crock of you-know-what,” Snell said.
Until then, Snell will try to get his first win over the Mets. He was erratic in his only career start against them on May 3, 2006, at Shea, yielding three runs and seven hits with nine strikeouts on 104 pitches in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3, 12-inning loss.
Snell could use some help from the Pirates’ lineup, which is hitting .234 over the last nine games. The current Pittsburgh roster is batting only .222 against Maine.
New York hopes to continue getting production from 22-year-old left fielder Lastings Milledge, who scored the go-ahead run on Sunday. One of the Mets’ top prospects, Milledge is 4-for-9 in the last two games after totaling four hits in his first 30 at-bats of the season.
The Mets took five of six home meetings against Pittsburgh last season.